Blog by: Outside of the boot
Barça’s youth system has been an example for every football club in the world. La Masia has produced world-famous young talents like Xavi, Iniesta and Messi. One of the important components of this structure is former technical director Pep Segura. He stated “It is about creating one philosophy and one mentality from bottom to top”. This mentality has been a main idea of the club for a long time and has helped the club to win trophies over the last couple of seasons. The latest product of La Masia is young Gerard Deulofeu.
Born in the Catalonian village of Riudarenes, Gerard Deulofeu inevitably joined the best football academy in the region, still shy of his 10th birthday. At first sight, everyone realized that he is a versatile player; he went on to make a huge impact at all age groups of youth ranks at Barcelona. Deulofeu made a great initial start to his Barca career. At the beginning some Barca fans considered him to be Messi’s predecessor, but despite the comparisons, everyone noticed that he is a different type of player.
Gerard Deulofeu made his debut for Barcelona’s B team in the Segunda division in a 4-1 win over Cordoba. It was his one and only appearance for the side in the 2010/11 season.
The following season, still only 17-years-old, Gerard Deulofeu became a regular for Barcelona B. He made a total of 36 appearances scoring 9 goals; the first of which was in his 4th appearance in a 2-1 loss to Hercules. A month later he would make his first-team debut, coming on as a second-half substitute for David Villa in a 5-0 win over Mallorca. His second B-team goal came just a week later. He would go on to score 7 more goals, including a brace each against Cartagena and Xerez. The side would finish a disappointing 8th in that campaign.
The 2012/13 campaign couldn’t have gone off to a better start for Gerard Deulofeu, on a personal note. The youngster scored the first hat-trick of his career on the opening day of the Segunda season, however, his team would end up losing 4-5 at home to eventual promotion winners— Almeria. It was a breakthrough season for the young Spaniard; he would finish the season as Barcelona B’s top scorer with 18 goals, and 6 assists to add to that as he made a total of 33 appearances.
He scored some important goals through the season, including a penalty against Real Madrid Castilla in the aptly named ‘Mini-Clasico’, as Barcelona B ran off 3-1 winners. The season also saw Deulofeu receive his first red card. Away to Ponferradina, the Spaniard opened the scoring but soon found his side trailing 3-1, he scored his second from the spot 4 minutes from time, but in stoppage time he let his frustrations get the better of him, receiving his marching orders for a second yellow.
Last season Deulofeu even made 3 first-team appearances. The first of which was his Champions League début, coming on as a substitute for Pedro in a 3-0 away victory against Spartak Moscow in the group stages. Few weeks later he replaced Christian Tello at the Nou Camp in a 0-0 draw against Benfica. His 2nd (and so far last) La Liga appearance would once again come against Mallorca, in another 5-0 victory.
Spain’s youth setup is as successful as the senior side. With Gerard Deulofeu an instrumental part of the side, they won back-to-back U-19 European Championship in 2011 and 2012 beating Czech Republic and Greece respectively. It’s not often that the same player is the focal point of a side across two U-19 Euros, but Deulofeu got better with the second tournament. Besides scoring 2 goals and creating 5, including laying off the winner for Jese in the final against Greece, Deulofeu was named as the tournament’s Best Player.
In the summer of 2013, he was in Turkey for FIFA U-20 World Cup. Spain were the favourites to win the World Cup but it was a disappointing performance. They lost against Uruguay at the Quarter Final stage which isn’t acceptable for a Spanish national team. Deulofeu has made 54 appearances (27 in major tournaments) for various Spanish youth teams, scoring a commendable 18 goals.
Style, Strengths & Weaknesses
Like every other La Masia graduate, he has Barcelona DNA. He is attack minded and capable of playing in different roles. He can play on either flank and as a striker, but in my opinion he is most prolific when he plays as a left winger, giving him more chances to cut inside, he does it very efficiently and is able to score goals and provide assists. Also, it gives left backs more chances to cross the ball. If you had a chance to watch his goals for Barça B last season, he generally cut inside from the left before taking a shot off on goal.
Gerard Deulofeu’s physique restricts his overall game as he is a small and feeble player; he could find it difficult in the Premier League due to this reason. But the same way Lionel Messi compensates for this weakness with his balance, speed & acceleration, young Deulofeu is also able to effectively take on the opposition defender using his strengths. These attributes give him the chance to score more goals and he can be more effective at one on ones. His acceleration and speed tend to be a challenge for defenders. Loaning him to the Premier League was a smart move on Barcelona’s part, as it’s the best league to improve on his physical weakness.
He is really good with the ball at his feet, has a flawless dribbling ability and very good technique. Deuloufeu is a good short passer with great ball control. The most impressive feature of his game is, he is both effective in open areas and tight spaces. His technical attributes let him easily play in tight areas and when he combines the technical attributes with his acceleration and speed, it is almost impossible to stop him in open areas. It is uncommon to have both features in one player. He can hug the touch line or cut inside, his versatility is a huge problem for any defender.
The defensive contribution of Gerard is extremely limited. While he contributes in the attacking department of the team he offers little in terms of the defence. He doesn’t like to chase his opponent and can become a problem for the full backs. When it comes to attack, his versatility is hugely beneficial to the side but it’s a problem because he often loses his position on the pitch. His constant movement results in him changing his position very often and when they lose the ball it is hard for him to retain his defensive duties.
In my opinion, Gerard’s biggest weakness is his mentality. I’ve seen him play more than 20 times and it is obvious that he has some problems in terms of discipline. For example, he knows that he has to press more to the opponent and he knows how to do it efficiently but he doesn’t have enough will to conduct the pressing. He plays spontaneously, on the pitch he needs to stick to the tactics and rules.
Concisely, Gerard Deulofeu is an extremely talented individual and is only 19. He has time to improve and learn to become a better player. His lack of knowledge in terms of defence is inevitable and he has a lot of work to do in this regard. I am sure that Roberto Martinez will help him to solve his disciplinary problems. At the end of the season, he has a great chance to go back to Barcelona and become a major part of the team. He can compete to be a third player of the forward trio.
“We’ve known him for years. He has a lot of potential and his style of play makes it very obvious. But we can’t rush the issue of his promotion [to the first team], his place is in Barça B and he needs to improve aspects of his play – it’s a question that only he can work on, it’s about his performances.”
— Pep Guardiola, ex-Barcelona Manager, via TribalFootball.com
“In the first half he played on the right, and he wasn’t performing at his best. In the second half we switched him to the left and he opened up the pitch and looked for one-on-one plays. He’s a special and different player.”
— Jordi Roura, Barcelona Assistant Manager, via TribalFootball.com
“Deulofeu is a great pupil who wants to be a great player so he has to continue improving certain things in order to make a difference.
— Eusebio Sacristan, Barcelona B Manager, via Football-Espana.net
“He is a player with a lot to offer, but he still needs to improve a lot before he can form part of the Barca first team. We have to see how Gerard adapts to games like these. We should not forget that he is still very, very young.”
— Tito Vilanova, ex-Barcelona Manager, via Goal.com
“We need to be patient as he’s a young man, but in the same manner I think we can enjoy his quality. He’s decided to come to Everton and we need to look after him well. Clearly he’s got the talent to help the team and we’re really excited about Gerard’s progress.”
— Roberto Martinez, Everton Manager, quoted by SkySports.com
“Ever since I saw Gerard Deulofeu play almost 2 years ago in the Catalan capital, it was clear that he was an outstanding performer. What alarmed me the most about the skilled, blonde haired winger, was his age, he was the youngest player in the Juvenil A starting XI, the U19 team. These statistics always stand out, which is why I’ve followed the evolution of ‘el chico dorado’ ever since.”
— Dominic Vieira, Managing Editor, AFootballReport.com
Having just been loaned out to Everton, his foreseeable future is at Goodison Park. Barcelona have loaned him out with the intention of allowing him to progress as a player, tracking his development and making a judgement on whether he is capable of making it into the Barca first-team. His popularity and performances in the youth teams will discourage Barca from allowing him to leave on a permanent.
Though, it must be said that if he is not going to be able to showcase his talents at Everton to the fans, coach and the board, then it would be hard to get a chance at Barcelona. The youngster was reportedly tracked by a number of big European clubs. Everton may not have necessarily been his option, but an informed choice from the coaches, taking into account the possible game-time he will receive.
It’s also interesting to note that Deugines Carvajal is the players’ agent, the same individual who was behind the Roberto Soldado, Fernando Amorebieta, and Marc Muniesa moves from Spain to the Premier League. He is also the same agent that has/had the likes of Raul, Morientes, Mendieta etc. on his client list.
It will be an interesting campaign for Gerard Deulofeu, and he will be hoping to get a decent run of games.